Suzy Cato thinks outside the box for ideas to help your child’s imagination soar.
If you’ve ever celebrated the birthday of a two year old, you’ll know that the joy and wonder your carefully considered present will receive will often be overshadowed by the squeals of delight given to the wrapping paper and the empty cardboard box. Oh, for us all to retain the innocent and unabashed joy of the simple things in life!
Of course, it’s not long before the contents of your gift will far outshine the alluring charm of corrugated cardboard or bright packaging. But if you make the most of that basic box’s hidden opportunities of, the gift you will give your children will open up a world of creativity and make treasured memories.
It may take a fair amount of effort on the caregiver’s part for the first few years, but the more you encourage your little one to assist you – helping them with scissors and paint, then quietly supervising as they take over – the sooner they’re creating and enjoying imaginative play that can consume hours of idle time.
Always make sure you have a stockpile of boxes, a roll of tape, a variety of clean, recyclable containers, pottle sand plates – and find a good playlist of clean-up songs. Tidying up is just as important as the creating, and even the smallest ones in the whānau can have fun carrying scraps to the bin or putting toys back into the basket.
I learnt that the dining table was a great space for a creative session, but that the dining room floor was even better if craft was taking place just before dinner.
Set aside time to be creative by yourself as well – release that inner child. It might not be with a cardboard box, but paint, beads, baubles and the like are for kids of all ages, and creativity does wonders for everyone’s wellbeing.
1 Start small and simple. My first memory of cardboard box play was being zoomed around in an empty box. It’s one of my tamariki’s first memories too.
2 A shoe box is the perfect size to make a bed for much loved soft toys. Old T-shirts or tea towels are good bedding options.
3 The trusty box was a common base for my creativity. Pair that with a small Weetbix box, the bottom of some mini aluminium pie pans and the lids of old drink bottles and voila, you have a great free- standing stove. We cut a door in our children’s box stove, and ice cream container “cake tins” worked a treat.
4 A box is also perfect for a variety of vehicles – stationary when the kids are small, or with part of the bottom cut out and straps to cross over their shoulders so they can run their cars around the garden.
5 Whiteware boxes are amazing and can transform into many magical places, from caves and castles to forts and fairy grottos – and at night they make wonderful sleeping pods.
Boxes are amazing and can transform into many magical places, from caves and castles to forts and fairy grottos
6 How many boxes can you fit into your lounge to make a cardboard community? We’d use a combination of sizes and could manage a decent, if confusing, rabbit warren of passages and rooms.
7 For quieter activities, provide your children with a selection of smaller food boxes, crafting offcuts and scraps, glue, tape and let their imaginations loose.
8 As your child’s finer motor skills develop, tiny cardboard houses and dioramas take over the dining table and fill the bookshelves.